THE SAPIENT SPARROW: conservatism for commoners

"What has always made the State a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven."–Holderlin


With the mid-term elections less than 90 days away, I find myself fantasizing about what New Jersey might be like if she were represented in Washington by individuals who actually could read and do math.  By extension, what might the entire Country look like?  Alas, despite the election of Chris Christie to the position of Governor of the Garden State, I am resigned to the voters returning Representative Bill Pascrell,  8th District, to Washington this November. The 2012 re-election of Senator Bob Menendez is more doubtful, even if he dodges the recall action now in process.  However, having lived in New Jersey for the past 25 years, I have learned to never underestimate the hypnotic power of politicians who have  “Ds” after their names over the New Jersey electorate.

There was a time when I attempted to correspond with both Rep. Pascrell and Senator Menendez.  (To my credit, I had never tried to write or call Senator Lautenberg.)  I stopped these futile efforts over a year ago out of a desire to keep my sanity intact.  As a result they stopped sending me e-mails and newsletters and making “robo-calls” to my home.  A kind of peaceful co-existence reigned among us.  Last week that peace was broken.  My fault, I have to confess.  The potential of a “lame duck” Congressional session this fall was just too tempting.  I took aim and fired off letters in conjunction with a petition from Freedom Works on the issue.

Here is the letter that Freedom Works sent, with my comment appended at the end:

July 30, 2010

Dear Representative Pascrell,
Dear Senator Lautenberg,
Dear Senator Menendez,

Dear Member of Congress,

I continue to hear rumors about a potential “Lame Duck” session that could be held right after the November elections and before the new Congress is sworn-in.

I fear that despite a very different political make-up in Congress, elements of the far Left will view this as their last chance to enact threats to our liberty including:

1. The Cap and Trade Energy Tax Hike!
2. Another “Stimulus” Bailout Scheme!
3. More Tax Hikes at a Time when we can Scarcely Afford them!

This would go directly against the will of the people – having had their say in the November Elections – and I urge you to oppose it as the worst kind of political, dirty-trick.

Should a lame duck session surface, I will be watching your vote very closely on cap and trade, additional taxpayer-funded bailouts, any attempts to increase taxes, and any other policy proposals that erode more of our freedoms and expand the reach of government.

H/T to Rep. Tom Price for his Resolution addressing this issue. I strongly support his efforts.


Okay, here is a little test.  What is the main idea of the above letter?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Below is the answer of Senator Menedez:

Dear Mrs. Hurley:

Thank you for contacting me to express your concerns about legislation addressing climate change.  Your opinion is very important to me, and I appreciate the opportunity to respond to you on this critical issue.

I understand your concerns about the potential economic impact of this legislation.  Like you, I believe it is vital that we carefully consider and prepare for how a program to reduce global warming pollution will affect the daily lives of those at every income level. Before supporting any energy legislation, I will be looking for significant investments in consumer rebates and energy efficiency to protect consumers and businesses from energy price increases.

However, when thinking about our energy and global warming policies, I think it is critical that we stop and recognize the fundamental choice we are facing.  We can either act now and gradually lower our emissions, or we can delay action and make the inevitable switch to cleaner fuels suddenly and in an economically disruptive manner.

Embarking on a new energy path now would mean rebuilding our manufacturing base by creating jobs in clean energy technology right here at home, reducing our dangerous dependence on foreign energy, and cutting global warming pollution.  As your Senator, I believe moving forward on energy independence and clean energy is the only sensible path for New Jersey and for America.  I have complete confidence that if we in Congress can take on our toughest energy and climate challenges, then our entrepreneurs, engineers, and workers  can make America the leader in clean energy technology that will power the 21st century economy.

On this issue, as with any issue, there are many different views.  Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.  Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.  I invite you to visit my website ( to learn more about how I am standing up for New Jersey families in the United States Senate.


His response begs the question, “Is a real person actually reading his correspondence, or does his office use computer software that uses predictive logic to generate (mis)responses?”  It is good to know, I guess, that Senator Menendez is consistently “mis-responsive”.  The letter I had sent previous to the one last week concerned Obamacare legislation.  Senator Menendez replied by telling me that he did not support funding for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center.  Remember, that a majority of New Jersey voters elected this guy—crazy-making, isn’t it?

Shortly after the exchange with Senator Menendez, I received a call from Representative Pascrell inviting me to join a “Telephone Townhall” meeting with him.  With some difficulty, I was able to resist his invitation.  However, the next day, I received from Representative Bill, a copy of his newsletter—the first one he has sent me in two years.  I tried not to read it; I really did.  But this latest newsletter looked so appealing.  Glossy paper, full color, so unlike the black and blue newsletter that he had previously sent.  So, I read it.

Representative Bill began with a warm, personal letter (my comments in italics):

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

For the past 13 years, I have had the honor of serving the residents of the 8th Congressional District.  As your representative in Congress, it is my priority to make sure you stay informed about the actions of your government in Washington.  (Notice his priority to inform us of Government actions instead of requesting that his constituents inform him about what actions to take.)

In this Congress, we are working hard to turn around the economy, and the results are starting to show.  After 22 straight months of job loss, we have now seen our economy create private-sector jobs for 6 months in a row.  (Omitted in this statement are any statistics that describe the impact these private-sector jobs have had on unemployment, almost nil, and how many more jobs that the private-sector would need to create in order to appreciably reduce unemployment.)
Not only has the Recovery Act helped stem the tide of the recession, but it has included the largest tax cut for any two-year period in the nation’s history allowing over 3.2 million N. J. families to receive tax cuts. (Emphasis is in original text.  More about the alleged tax cuts can be found below.)

We can see the impact of the Recovery Act right here in the 8th District, with the bridge improvements on I-280, the resurfacing of Interstate 80, (Okay, aside from the wasteful expenditure for the “Recovery Act” PR signs, I can support these.) and a Head Start program in Montclair.  (Ummm, Rep. Bill just lost me again.)
With the help of the Recovery Act grants, we are taking America in a new direction—creating good American jobs, providing the lowest taxes in 60 years for the middle class, and helping small business competitively expand.  (Wow, who knew?!?) Times are still hard for families in the 8th District, and I will continue working to get our economy back on track.  (Oh, no, Rep. Bill, please don’t, you’ve done enough already, really you have.)

As Americans we are all affected by these issues and now is the time to voice our thoughts towards finding common solutions.  (Really?  We can “voice our thoughts”.  Is this to be done before or after you inform us “about the actions of our government in Washington”?)

Warm Regards,

Inside his glossy newsletter, Representative Pascrell informs us that he is “delivering tax cuts to working class families and over $311 million to the 8th District from the Recovery Act to create jobs and build the foundation for our future.”  He then specifically accounts for only ~$107.6 million of the money that the 8th District received from the Recovery Act.  (Approximately 34.6%).  It has been spent on such things as education, energy efficiency and green jobs, water quality, sewage efficiency, road and bridge projects.  Approximately 7% of the $311 million went to educational-related items.  (Read: NJEA)  By contrast, Law Enforcement received .08%, yes you read that correctly, 8/100ths of one percent of Recovery Act funds.  Over 21% of the Recovery Act funds went to environmental and green energy-related projects.  About 6% of the $311 million was spent on road and bridge projects.  So where did the other 65.4% of the money go?

Reading on, it becomes clear that a large, undisclosed, portion of the $311 million was spent on “health care”, i.e., support for Medicaid, medical technology and senior nutritional programs.  Whatever remained of the $311 was spent on that “largest tax cut for any two-year period in the nation’s history” that allowed “over 3.2 million N. J. families to receive tax cuts.”  Following is the list of “tax cuts” bestowed on “over 3.2 million N. J. families”:
 Expansion of the child tax credit
 Expansion of the college credit
 The Homebuyer credit
 The Small Business tax credit of renewable energy production
 The Small Business tax credit that allows an immediate tax credit to be claimed for capital equipment purchases
Reduction in withholding
 One-time $250 payment to seniors, veterans and the disabled in the 8th Congressional District.

There is one, teensy-weensy problem with the above list, aside from the reduction in withholding, (which has negligible or even negative consequences), none of these items are “tax cuts”.  They are “tax credits”.  The Heritage Foundation explains the difference between these two.  In short, “tax cuts” allow taxpayers to keep more of the money they earn over a period of time.  “Tax credits” are temporary, perhaps even one-time, benefits given to specific individuals that meet particular requirements.  I suppose that Rep. Bill can be forgiven for not knowing the difference; nearly all the Democrats confuse these two terms and seem to use them interchangeably.

Near the end of his newsletter, Representative Pascrell invites the reader to check out the funding amounts at the “” site.  Being a glutton for punishment, I did.  Clicking on the state of New Jersey on the map gave me the following information:
 Total awarded (to the State of New Jersey)     $5,122,510,000
 Total received (through 6/20/10)                         $2,442,720,000
 Recipient Reported Jobs (between
April 1-June 30, 2010                                                                22,885

At this point I intend to re-instate my “no contact” rule with Senator Menendez and Representative Pascrell.  I much prefer writing to those who are not clueless.  And, if it looks as if I’m weakening, will someone please force me to re-read this post and then remind me of von Hayek’s words:
“We shall not grow wiser before we learn that much that we have done was very foolish.”

Filed under: NJ Federal Representatives, , , , , ,

3 Responses

  1. lhurley13 says:
    Hi, Just wanted to let you know that we have an opportunity this November to get rid of Bill Pascrell in the 8th Congressional District. Roland Straten is a Reagan Conservative who believes that decision-making and power should be pushed down to the lowest level of government. Roland owns a small business in Paterson (Pascrell’s home base) and has been creating real jobs in the district for 40 years. He believes that tax dollars are your money and that the current economic mess is the result of runaway spending and runaway growth of an ever intrusive big government. The way to improve the job situation is to allow free markets to work. Check out his website: and facebook page. Straten is the “real deal,” not a typical politician. Bobbi Bennett

    • lhurley13 says:

      I certainly hope you are right. I have been seeing some Straten yard signs in my area, but he does not seem to have a lot of name recognition here on the “fringes” of the 8th District. Perhaps in the heart of the District he is more visible? My fear is that Pascrell has the “union machine” behind him. My hope is that Straten will campaign along the lines of Christie, i.e., traveling the District, dropping into shops and eateries, meeting with “real” people etc. I think that he could overcome the union backing, but it will require a concerted, personal effort from him and his supporters. Thanks for your comment and for the link to Straten’s site. I am hoping along with you!

  2. Patrick says:

    I received these exact same letters. What these guys do not understand is that when elected, they were supposed to serve according to the will of the people who elected them. What they have done instead is superimpose their own ideology onto this task, making anything having to do with the will of the people resemble an afterthought while their own ideology takes center stage.

    Increasingly we have seen the development of a political class that is intent on keeping itself in power. The main problem with this political class is that, when elected, they falsely believed they had carte blanche from the people to pretty much do whatever they wanted. This political class, in order to stay in power, listened less to the people who elected them and more to those special interests who share their ideology, such as unions or environmental interest groups, on whom they depend in order to have a political job for life. Slowly we have seen this political class become more dependant on special interests in order to keep themselves in power.

    The main problem with this is that it has been at the expense of the people, with whom these elected officials have completely lost touch. Their ideology has already made their decision for them, so when you write these officials regarding a question you may have (in this case, to keep from creating a lame duck session of congress), they write back with an answer that has more to do with trying to win you over to their opinion (however tenuously related to your question or comment) rather than answering any specific question or concern that you might have.

    The letter sent by Menendez is a case in point. The Senator’s ideology is given the spotlight, and anything having to do with the will of the people becomes apocryphal. This sort of approach resembles more of a one way radio rather than an elected official trying to correspond with his constituents.

    This sort of arrangement cannot last, and if Menendez is concerned at all with regard to his possible recall, he needs to actually interact with his constituents rather than respond in such a cookie-cutter manner. When I received this letter, I felt as if my intelligence had been insulted and will definitely vote against this man whenever his name comes up on the ballot.

    This is supposed to be a democratic republic, not an oligarchy.

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